The New Zealand Parliament on Wednesday voted 77-44 in favor of an amendment [text] to the existing Marriage Act of 1955 [text] that would allow same-sex couples to marry. The debate surrounding the controversial legislation [Stuff report] was heated, but the bill was eventually passed on its third reading. Specifically, the bill amends previous legislation to prevent discrimination against same-sex couples. In the preamble to the text, parliament proclaims:
We acknowledge that whether or not the ability to marry constitutes a human right has been a topic of much debate. Proponents of the bill have expressed the view that the right to marry freely is a human right, which is currently denied to same-sex couples and transgender people. Opponents of the bill argue marriage is not a human right. The majority of us consider that marriage is a human right, and that it is unacceptable for the state to deny this right to same-sex couples.To this end, the new law will allow same-sex marriage explicitly and make it illegal to refuse to recognize a lawful marriage. The amendment also addresses other aspects of the law, such as adoption. Language included in several different parts of the code has now been changed from "husband and wife" to "spouse" in order to accommodate the change to the marriage definition.
This amendment makes New Zealand the thirteenth country to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder]. The issue continues to be controversial both in the US and internationally. Earlier this week, Ireland announced it would hold a referendum [JURIST report] on same-sex marriage. Last week, the French senate approved [JURIST report] a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry and adopt. The day before, Uruguay's legislature passed [JURIST report] a same-sex marriage bill that is expected to be signed by the president. Last month the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Windsor [JURIST report], the second of two cases the court heard that week on same-sex marriage. In that argument, the court considered the validity of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) [text; JURIST news archive], a federal law that recognizes only opposite-sex marriages for federal benefits purposes, despite state law on the issue.